How to Create an Operations Manual for Your Business (and Avoid Nuclear War)

operations manual operational excellence operational knowledge

Having an operations manual may not be glamorous, but preventing the disasters caused by human error and bad processes can save your business and even (in extreme circumstances) millions of lives.

If you’ve ever seen Dr. Strangelove, you’ll know it’s ridiculous. You’ve got a mad scientist, a cowboy pilot riding a bomb as it falls, and a nuclear holocaust brought about by a series of overblown human (and mechanical) errors.

operations manual - dr strangelove

Yet, despite being criticized as unrealistic, at the time it was entirely possible for human error to cause a Third World War. Hell, human error has already caused the worst nuclear accident to date.

A perfect storm of 6 human errors — culminating with staff thinking it was ok to turn off the emergency cooling system — caused the Chernobyl disaster, costing an inflation-adjusted $720 billion, 30 deaths and an extreme amount of unsafe radiation.” – Ben Brandall, How Processes Protect Your Business From Crashing and Burning

The truth is, the only way to prevent such errors is to document workflows and processes, and the only way to make sure your employees know what they have to do, how to do it, and have the resources to do it is to create your own operations manual.

In this Process Street article, we’ll be covering:

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50+ Free & Easy SOP Templates (Sample SOPs to Record Standard Procedures)

easy SOP standard operating procedures example templates

Writing standard operating procedures is a cumbersome task but a serious requirement for businesses the world over.

In many industries it is important to have documentation which shows you have been adhering to ISO guidelines. This can help you clinch major clients and demonstrate your professionalism.

However, when you’re starting out with your first SOPs it can be difficult to know where to begin.

That’s why we’ve pulled together a range of the best free SOP templates for you to work from.

Simply go through the available SOPs below and pick out the one best suited to your needs. We’ve included Microsoft Word templates and Process Street ones too. You’ll also find a guide for writing SOPs to help you get started.

Given that it can be intimidating writing standard operating procedures, we have provided a number of industry-specific examples plus suggestions for how you can pull together basic SOPs even if they’re not documented according to ISO standards.

Read through the following sections to get completely clued up:

Let’s dive in.
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5 Essential Lessons I Learned From GitLab’s Marketing Playbook

5 Essential Lessons I Learned From GitLab's Marketing Playbook

Writers are inherently nosy curious. Here at Process Street, we’re no different. So when I was given the opportunity to check out GitLab’s marketing playbook, I jumped at it.

GitLab itself is an interesting company. Completely remote and open source, GitLab’s evolution comes not only from its own development teams, but also contributions from a community of over 3,000 contributors and two million users. Plus it promotes total transparency; all of GitLab’s documentation is freely accessible on their website.

Like I said, interesting place.

There are enough similarities between our two companies, that their approach is particularly valuable in terms of what procedures we might steal learn from to improve our own processes.

And we love improving processes.

In this article, I’ll list the five most important lessons I learned from GitLab’s marketing playbook:

So, let’s get started.
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5 Critical System Failures of the Coronavirus Pandemic

5 Critical System Failures of the Coronavirus Pandemic

At 5 AM on August 29, 2005, the largest drainage canal in New Orleans, the 17th Street Canal, was breached by torrents of water, an hour before Hurricane Katrina struck the city.

Levees and floodwalls fell in 50 different locations, flooding 80% of the city – under 15 feet of water in some parts.

No doubt the system failed. But which system?

The Bush administration claimed the break couldn’t have been foreseen. Scientists claimed they’d given warnings about that exact situation for nearly ten years previous. The US Army Corps of Engineers blamed the city; the city blamed the engineers.

It could be said – and many have – that in this case, it wasn’t the levee system that failed that day, but the human system certainly did. Later, experts determined that budget cuts, outdated engineering, and inadequate process infrastructures are what led to the disaster.

But that was 2005, and something of that magnitude couldn’t blindside us again.

Right…?

System Failure: COVID-19
(Source)

At Process Street, we’ve been paying very close attention to the different responses to the COVID-19 outbreak. This post is going to look at seven of the most notable system failures that occurred during the pandemic, why they happened, and how they could have been prevented.

Let’s get started.
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Visual Management: How to Communicate Effectively with Your Workforce

visual-management

Click here to visually map and improve your business processes now!

Did you know that visual information is processed 60,000 x faster than text?

This explains why the average person remembers only 20% of what they read but 40% of what they see. This also explains why most companies use a form of visual management to communicate with their employees.

Let’s do a little test to see if people, in general, respond better to visual cues than text.

Look at these two depictions of a traffic light below.

One is a sentence describing a traffic light, and one is an image of a traffic light. Both traffic lights are on different colors:

1. The traffic light is on red.

2.visual-management

At the end of this Process Street post, we’ll see which color traffic light you remember! No cheating mind!

In the meantime, I’ll take you through the following topics to explain what visual management is and how you can use it to effectively communicate with your employees:

Ready?
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Lab Procedures: How to Make Your Lab Safe and Effective

Lab Procedures

I’m not religious, but God bless high school lab technicians.

I can’t count the number of times that Dave (our high school’s technician), exasperated and exhausted, despaired at the lack of common sense some of our teachers had.

Heck, our physics teacher once almost exposed a classroom of Year 7s (11 years old!) to chlorine gas.

He forgot to turn on the extractor fans, leaving poor old Dave to rush in, turn them on, and then promptly evacuate everyone from the room.

Corroding the lungs of your students is, after all, not best practice.

This is why it’s important to have set lab procedures in place. Following these documented processes is the best way to prevent disaster.

When 25-38% of lab personnel have been in an accident that wasn’t even reported (as demonstrated by Dana Ménard and John Trant), you can see the dangers that are easily taken for granted in a lab environment.

That’s why we here at Process Street have created a Lab SOP process that you can use for free, and will go over the common points that a lab procedure needs to cover in this post.

If you just want to get the checklist for yourself, you can check it out below.

You can also click the links below to be taken to a specific section of the article:

Let’s get started!
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What is an SOP? 16 Essential Steps to Writing Standard Operating Procedures (With Templates)

The_16_Steps_to_Writing_Standard_Operating_Procedures

🟢✅ Bonus material: SOP Structure Template to help you write perfect procedures

Whether you’re starting a business or trying to improve an existing one, you have to understand how things are going to get done.

What tasks do you need to do? Who needs to do them? What are the best ways to approach these tasks?

Working out how these questions can be answered is the first step toward systemizing your business. The creation of processes and workflows will define the way in which your day to day activities function.

One popular approach to this is the creation of standard operating procedures. The simple definition provided by IBM for standard operating procedures is:

…a set of instructions that describes all the relevant steps and activities of a process or procedure.

Simple.

But how do we create these SOPs? What we need are standard operating procedures for creating standard operating procedures – and some standard operating procedure software. And that’s what we’re going to give you.

We’ll look at:

  • How to create a set of standard operating procedures
  • Some advanced techniques for improving your SOPs
  • Why Process Street is a useful tool for both mapping and following your standard operating procedures

Read through these sections to get clued up:

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Ultimate SOP Guide: Standard Operating Procedures Made Easy (Free Templates!)

sop templates

SOPs (often pronounced S-O-P) are basically just another way to think about processes. Specifically, with a focus on formally defining the best way of doing something.

In business terms, that means saving time and money by building a clear, concise set of instructions for all of your internal processes. Policies (or standards) are important too; SOPs are kind of like a hybrid of policy and procedure.

Traditionally, SOPs were useful in principle, but often suffered from being difficult to maintain and crucially, hard to enforce. What good is an SOP if it lives its life sat on a dusty stack of paper forms? Your SOPs should be actionable, and that’s where BPM software like Process Street comes in.

If you understand how to build, maintain, and optimize SOPs with software, you can supercharge your standard operating procedures.

In this article, we want to give you everything you will ever need to know about SOPs, including:

Each section will be as concise as possible, with links out to further reading wherever appropriate. Let’s start with the basics.
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AS9100: The Quality Management System that Changed Aerospace

AS9100

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped.” – Eric Moody, British Airways Captain, Business Insider

The words no one wants to hear when they’re tightly strapped into an aluminum tube, flying at 900kph, 35,000 feet up in the air.

One in three Americans either feels anxious or scared to fly and 73% are fearful of mechanical problems during flight.

On a flight from Kiev to Toronto, several screws fell out of the ceiling onto my lap…When air started sucking out of a loose seam around my window, I really started to panic.” – Nate Drescher, The Travel

But air travel in the United States is the safest in the world. The odds of dying in a car accident are about one in 5,000. The odds of dying in a plane crash are about one in 11,000,000.

So, putting our fears aside for a second, why is flying the safest way to travel?

Well, partly because of the advances in aircraft design, technology, and engineering, but mostly because of Aerospace Standard (AS) 9100. The International Quality Management System standard for the Aviation, Space, and Defense industry.

A person would have to fly on average once a day every day for 22,000 years before they would die in a U.S. commercial airplane accident” – Dr. Arnold Barnett, FlyFright

Whether you’re an avid flyer, an aviation expert, or an aerospace supplier, join me as we fly through the following AS9100 topics:

Fix your seat in an upright position, fasten your seatbelt, and prepare for take-off…

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7 SOP Examples: Essential Templates to Make SOPs Simple

sop example templates

Whether it be for employee onboarding or adhering to ISO guidelines, standard operating procedures (SOP) are an integral part of making sure your company runs smoothly, stays organized, and ensuring your team consistently follows protocol.

But, where do you start if you’ve never documented your company procedures before?

It can be intimidating when you’re first beginning to build your standard operating procedures.

That’s why we’ve built four SOP example templates, to give you a clear and easy-to-follow framework to be able to easily build your own procedures from start to finish.

This post is all about SOP innovation. Using Process Street, you can create SOPs in new, more efficient ways.

Here’s a breakdown of the article:

Let’s take a look at some SOP example templates to begin with. Continue Reading

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